Blame it on the week or so they had off. Say they were just a little rusty or even that they were just too confident after sweeping the Colorado Avalanche in the semifinals. Whatever excuse you might think up or whatever you can use to justify the confidence-crushing conference final Game One, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks’ loss last Friday night did nothing more than dampen my hopes of them bringing home the Stanley Cup this year.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking I’m being way too dramatic over this, which is probably true. I’m sure there are people saying that it’s just a game and that I should lighten up, which is actually something I’ve advocated in the past. But the bottom line is that having a team like the Ducks who tend to turn things around midseason and climb all the way to the top just to have their hopes crushed is something I’ve seen way too often. It happened back in 1997 and 1999, not to mention the 2003 playoffs where they made it all the way to Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to New Jersey.
But that was then and this is now, so I guess I should try to be a bit optimistic. I mean it was only one game, one out of the seven possible. Edmonton still has quite a way to go before they can say they defeated the Anaheim team. However, based on the two teams’ history with each other this season, the Ducks don’t seem to have much of an upper hand. Sure, they have right wing Teemu Selanne and hotshot goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, but they’ve lost to Edmonton in the four games they’ve played against each other in regular season. Not to mention that games three and four will take place on the Oilers’ home turf, where the Ducks will not only face their opponents and their grueling fans but also the fact that they haven’t won a game in Edmonton in seven years.
Wait, I am supposed to be thinking optimistically right now. The Ducks do have a lot going for them, after all. They just need to pick up the shooting and make some more clutter around the net. I’m sure that with a continuous shot-after-shot momentum not even the Oilers’ Dwayne Roloson can stop it all. I mean, a team that can turn around their season the way the Ducks have and not only make it to the playoffs but also sweep one of their opponents shows a team that knows what it’s doing. They have suffered through their share of victories, heartbreaking overtime losses and team injuries only to fight their way past 26 other teams to make it into the top four.
Making it to the top four—now why does that sound familiar? Of course, the only thing I could be referring is the UC Irvine’s Men’s Volleyball team, the team that made it all the way into the top four in the NCAA Championships this year only to duel it out with Penn State and lose in a five-game semifinal match. Unlike the Ducks, however, our Anteaters held a strong winning streak early in the season and filled those who paid attention to the athletics program here at UCI with confidence. Still, Penn State along with their fans were too much for UCI to handle and they came home without the championship.
Now, I’ve mentioned fans and their significance a few times already, but I’m sure I am overplaying their influence on the game. After all, it is the team that has to practice and train, and then compete against other schools or cities. There’s also the fact that some fans don’t really know what they’re cheering for, such as a couple of kids I came across at the last UCI baseball game I went to. Sure they were excited when they found out UCI was winning 3-0, but a moment later they asked which color UCI’s jersey was. I honestly didn’t know how to react to that.
All right, back to the Ducks. It’s without a doubt that they have a rough road ahead of them. Hopefully the rest of the games in the series won’t reflect the loss Friday. All anyone can really do is wait and watch. Oh, and knowing what color the Ducks’ jersey is would also be a definite help.